Abstract / Description of output
The COVID-19 pandemic mandated a substantial switch in primary health care delivery from an in-person to a mainly remote telephone or video service. As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its third year, limited progress appears to have been made in terms of policy development around consultation methods for the post-acute phase of the pandemic. In September 2020, the International Primary Care Respiratory Group convened a global panel of primary care clinicians - including family physicians, paediatricians, pharmacists, academics and patients - to consider the policy and health management implications of the move to remote consultations in the primary care setting. The group gave special consideration to how and how far remote consultations should be integrated into routine primary health care delivery. Remote consultations can be a useful alternative to in-person consultations in primary care not only in situations where there is a need for viral infection control but also for the routine delivery of chronic disease management. However, they may not be more time efficient for the clinician, and they can add to the workload and work-related stress for primary care practitioners if they remain the dominant consultation mode. Remote consultations are also less appropriate than in-person consultations for new disease diagnosis, dealing with multiple issues and providing complex care. Ensuring health care professionals have the appropriate skill set to effectively deliver remote consultations, administrative and/or IT support and appropriate reimbursement will be key to achieving optimal integration of remote consultations into routine clinical practice. Addressing digital access and digital literacy issues at a societal level will also be essential to ensure individuals have fair and equitable access to the internet and sufficient security for exchange of personal and health-related data.